Rising Carbon Emissions Make Crops Less Nutritious, Threaten Global Health
Wednesday, August 29, 2018
Around the world, food security is being threatened by man-made carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Some of the threats to our food system are relatively clear: warmer temperatures and changing climates bring about droughts, heat waves, sea level rise and more frequent and intense extreme weather events —all of which can disrupt food production.
But hidden in the biochemistry of the crops themselves lies another major threat to our public health and food supply. As CO2 concentrations rise, the levels of some key nutrients in staple food crops are lowered. In other words, by emitting historically high levels of carbon pollution, we are literally making our food less nutritious.
Food crops grown at higher carbon dioxide levels have lower amounts of protein, zinc, and iron, all of which are essential nutrients for human health. Specifically, on average, food grown at CO2 levels expected by 2050 will contain 10 percent less protein, 6 percent less iron, and 7 percent less zinc.